Marketing Automation

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is a bit of a misleading concept. The reason I say this is simply because most people instantly think of email autoresponders when they hear the term “marketing automation“. Because of this, I prefer to use the term “Marketing & Business Automation”… sometimes I’ll even try to act cool and shorten it to MBA… but obviously that opens a whole other can of confusion.

So, if marketing automation isn’t just email autoresponders… then what is it?

The Truth About Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is the process of deploying technology to execute marketing and related business processes in a systemized manner. Some people think that marketing automation removes the human interaction from your business, however, I employ marketing and business automation to help me speak to the right people, at the right time, with the right message.

Another way to think about marketing automation is to think of a surgeon. You won’t see a surgeon is a hospital room preparing for surgery… nope, you see a team of nurses and other staff scurrying around getting the surgery ready. When it’s showtime, the surgeon saunters into the room, has his gloves placed carefully on his hands by a nurse, before performing the life-saving surgery. The surgeon doesn’t waste a single second doing something that isn’t directly related to his job.

Marketing automation makes you the surgeon. The marketing automation system is the team of nurses that prepare the surgery for you.

Imagine what you could achieve if you could focus on the highest value activities in your business… and allowed technology to take care of everything else.

What Does Marketing Automation Do?

We’ve identified that marketing and business automation can take a whole heap of tasks off your plate so you can focus on “performing surgery”, but what exactly does marketing automation do to help you scale your business.

There are three core phases of customer acquisition that marketing and business automation software can help your business with. I sometimes simplify these three phases to the acronym AEC, but I’m going to expand on them for you.

  1. Awareness: This is the phase where you make strangers aware of your business and the solutions your business can provide. It takes them from being unaware of your business to being potentially interested. Automation makes it possible to put the awareness phase (sometimes called the lead generation phase) on auto-pilot.
  2. Engagement: Now that you’ve captured the attention of strangers in the Awareness phase, it’s time to engage with them. Automation deployed in this phase can help people go from aware to engaged and interested in your product or service, It is also possible to use automation to engage with existing customers to increase retention and introduce them to other service or product offerings.
  3. Conversion: This is the phase that makes the wheels go round. It’s where the prospect exchanges money for your service and/or product. This is where marketing automation pays for itself. Imagine closing sales without even getting involved. This is completely possible with marketing and business automation.

At each phase of the customer acquisition funnel, marketing automation plays a different role and potentially uses a different tool. Because of this, you need to have a comprehensive marketing and business automation tool, as well as the right mindset and knowledge to bring it all together.

Just like flying a plane…

Your business is simply a series of systems and frameworks that are working together to achieve the desired outcome. Even if you think you don’t have systems and frameworks, the reality is that DO have some sort of system… it just may not be a very good system.

When it comes to thinking about marketing and business automation and how it works with your business, I tend to think of your business as a plane. The passengers on the plane are your customers and you are using your business to take them all to their desired destination.

Let’s Think About This A Bit Deeper…

You’re the pilot. The pilot is responsible for making the plane move in the intended direction, often having to make course corrections as the plane veers off it’s intended flight path. In your business, you are the pilot. You set the destination and are responsible for the journey that your customers are on.

Marketing and business automation is the plane. A plane is a giant machine built from specialist intricate parts that all serve a purpose. These parts work together to help the pilot’s vision (i.e. where he’s trying to take everyone) become a reality.

Your marketing strategy is the flight plan. Pilots don’t just jump behind the wheel (or cockpits) and make decisions on the fly about how they’ll arrive at the intended destination. They, and their team, decide upon the most appropriate flight plan well before the flight. The pilot then controls the plane to execute the flight plan.

The other benefit of thinking about your business as a plane is that it should encourage you to think about scale. That is, one pilot and his team can easily transport many customers depending on the size of the plane. This one-to-many approach can help your business grow whilst continuing to assist your clients to reach the destination they desire.


Marketing and business automation is where you use technology to execute marketing and related business processes. It enables the business owner to focus on high-value activity (like a surgeon) rather than wasting time on low-value activities.

Marketing automation helps with the three phases of customer acquisition:

  • Awareness
  • Engagement
  • Conversion

When it comes to thinking how marketing and business automation can work in your business, it is sometimes helpful to use the analogy of flying a plane:

  • The pilot is the business owner,
  • The plane is the marketing and business automation software, and
  • The flight plan is the marketing strategy.

If you’d like to experience a free trial of a marketing and automation software solution, then please click this link and register for a free trial with ActiveCampaign. ActiveCampaign is my preferred marketing automation platform so if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below or reach out to me via email.




Author: Shane

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  1. You make a very good case for using marketing automation for your online business and this is something I know I should be doing. I’m guessing that just setting it up is the only hard part and then it pretty much runs on its own. I’m not familiar with Active Campaign but how does it compare to others out there like GetResponse? Also, how much does it cost once the trial period is over?

    1. Hey Lynnsamuelson!

      Setting up marketing and business automation is a bit like building a house. You need to build a solid foundation and because of this, a lot of the work goes into the foundation. Same with marketing automation, most of the hard work goes into the setup (foundation). Once set up, it’s just about adjusting your systems as you go. 

      I will do a comparison between Get Response and ActiveCampaign shortly in another blog (thanks for the idea

  2. This is a such informative topic. I am internet entrepreneur and this is so important for our business. I think that you did a great comparison because it truly important to understand how important is marketing for online businesses. My colleagues would be happy to read this too. Thanks man!

  3. This seems like a super important part of any business but particularly if you want to have return customers.  I have been using a particular email responder and I’ve had very good luck with it and have been able to keep a lot of my customers on it without having many unsubscribes.  I haven’t tried ActiveCampaign yet, but it sounds like you’re happy with it so it’s on my list of sites to check out.  Do you have any other recommendations for marketing?

    1. Hey Shannon!

      Thanks for commenting!

      I certainly do have many more recommendations around marketing… Is there any particular area you’re looking for help with at the moment?



  4. Good to know about this. Yes, marketing automation sounds like what all online business should have. I know how tiring it can get to run a business online plus also run a marketing campaign at the side. Its like a one man show.  This is why many people quit and give up. This is something I should be looking into. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Andrea!

      Thanks for commenting! 

      Marketing and business automation is particularly important for one man bands. The technology (if set up correctly) takes many of the tasks that the business owner was doing out of their hands, freeing up time. With more time, the business owner can either focus on growth or do cool stuff!



  5. The marketing automation system is very appealing thanks to your explanation. It was very clever describing how it works by  comparison it to a surgical team.

    I have clicked through your link onto Active campaign to research further as I’m very interested.

    I would however would of liked to see a comparision with a second or third marketing automation company to compare prices and services. Why do you think Active campaign is the best? 

    1. Hey Darren!

      Thanks for commenting! I appreciate your kind words. 

      I’m looking at my content schedule and I’ve planned to compare all the major marketing automation softwares against each other (not just ActiveCampaign). 

      I popped AC into the blog just because I know they offer a full featured trial so it’s a good system to get an idea of how a marketing automation system works. 

      Lots more content coming around other automation systems and strategies!

      Chat soon,


  6. Hi Shane,

    I was interested in your analogy of the surgeon and the hospital staff.

    You are right about that and it made me realize that I maybe putting to much of my time into parts of my business that could either be done by other people or by systems.

    I also like the comment you made about talking ‘to the right people, at the right time, with the right message.’

    I think this is really important.

    Timing is everything.

    I will have a look at the recommended program and see if it does the job I need.

    Great post!


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